• Tower Room in Southwestern University's Special Collections and Archives.
    Southwestern University

Thanks to the generosity of Penny Tower Cook and Jeanne Tower Cox, both of Dallas, Texas, an archive of the pre-and post-Senate papers of their father, U.S. Senator John G. Tower (1925–1991), has become a permanent part of Southwestern University’s Special Collections. The items—which comprise 55 linear feet of correspondence, memoranda, news clippings, drafts of the late senator’s book Consequences: A Personal and Political Memoir (1991), and an unpublished manuscript titled The Coming Constitutional Crisis—have been on loan to the university from the Tower family since 1991 but will now enjoy a home at Southwestern in perpetuity.

“The generosity of Penny Tower Cook and Jeanne Tower Cox, and of their late father, Senator Tower, is deeply meaningful,” says Vice President for University Relations Paul Secord. “These artifacts are precious to Southwestern University not only for their historical significance but also as valuable resources for our students and faculty, as well as the broader community, to conduct research now and into the future.”

Tower began his studies at Southwestern in 1942, majoring in political science. He took leave from the university to serve in the U.S. Navy during World War II. After the war, in 1946, he returned to Georgetown to continue his college career and became an active member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity. After completing his bachelor of arts at SU in 1948, Tower attended graduate school at Southern Methodist University, studied abroad at the London School of Economics, and worked as an assistant professor of politics and history at Midwestern University in Wichita Falls until 1960.

Upon leaving higher education, Tower became active in politics, and his rise through the ranks of the Republican party was meteoric. In 1961, at the age of only 35, he was elected to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by recently elected Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, becoming the first Republican elected to the Senate from Texas since Reconstruction. He was re-elected three times until his retirement 24 years later, after which he was appointed chair of a federal commission to investigate the Iran–Contra scandal. President Ronald Reagan also named Tower a chief negotiator specializing in long-range nuclear weapons at the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START I) between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, one of the most complex arms-control treaties in history. Tower and his daughter Marian G. Tower died in the crash of Atlantic Southeast Airlines Flight 2311 on April 5, 1991.

Prior to his untimely death, Tower named his undergraduate alma mater the repository for the bulk of his papers, amounting to approximately 800 linear feet of materials. A large section of his collection were gifts to the university while others have been on long-term loan. Highlights from the newly permanent archive of pre-and post-Senate papers include a handwritten letter from Richard Nixon, a letter from Ronald Reagan about the Iran–Contra affair, a multitude of photographs and political cartoons, and several personal items (e.g., a bespoke cowboy hat).

Because the gift includes historically significant items, the archive will continue to be a boon to Southwestern faculty and students as well as researchers unaffiliated with the university. “This donation of materials to the Senator Tower collection allows Special Collections to provide a rich variety of primary sources to the students of Southwestern to use and engage with for learning,” says Head of Special Collections and Archives Megan Firestone.

More information about the archive can be found here.

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